Prince Charmish

So I’m talking with Mark about fairy tales, and it occurs to me… Prince Charming. He’s been a literary character, a cartoon, a meme, and yet…

What is it about Prince Charming? I read the Brothers Grimm version, as a kid and as an adult. I swallowed the animated, kind of 2D-Ken doll versions as a kid. I’ve absorbed the cultural visions of him through my pores like almost every woman (it’s not just Western culture — other cultures have their own versions) in movies, in books, magazines, television, songs…  It’s embedded into our view of the world, the idea of the perfect man. It’s so prevalent that it took me years to examine it. When I did, I realized something…

Nobody tells you what makes him charming. We’re simply told he’s charming, and that’s that. In the original, he’s simply a prince, and that’s enough. Then he becomes a handsome prince. He dances with Cinderella, and he’s charmed by her, but does he do anything particularly charming himself? Not really. In later versions, he acquires the name, Prince Charming, but still we’re not given any evidence that he is, indeed, charming. He ignores the other guests at the ball to dance with the most beautiful girl in the room, flattering for her, but hardly charming for everyone else there. He chases a girl who’s trying to get away from him. Not so charming, that. He takes her shoe on an obsessive quest,  prepped to marry the first woman who wears that size shoe in the kingdom, assuming there’s only one, and it must be her. Not too bright. If you find intelligence charming, you’re out of luck.

To a lonely, abused girl, maybe the very fact that he could take her away and presumably give her a place to bathe, a change of clothes, and a bed that wasn’t the floor was probably enough, to start. How likely is it that her standards were high? We don’t hear from her five years into the marriage. By that time, he might be “Prince Too Dim To Follow A Thought From One End To The Other,” or “Prince I Think He’s Sleeping With The Maids, And Not One At A Time, Either.” 

So what is it that drives the myth of Prince Charming? He’s a mirror. You bring to him whatever needs and desires you’re carrying with you. He’s featureless. You can hang whatever fantasies you want onto him, and he’ll wear them, much like dressing a Ken doll. We all know Ken only exists so that Barbie doesn’t have to go stag if she doesn’t want to. Pre-media celebrity, we had Prince Charming. Much as we approach celebrities with our load of issues and paint them to suit us, we create our own Prince Charmings, one for each of us. Mine might be, probably is, very different from yours.

All of which is fine, if you see it for the fantasy it is. Instructive, even, if you look at why your Prince Charming looks and acts as he does. That could tell you a lot about yourself. If, however, you go out in the world skipping any guy who doesn’t fit the suit, Prince Charming becomes a problem. He gets in the way. Which isn’t charming.

Yes, guys have their own versions of this (“Hooker with a heart of gold, beautiful but unappreciated, disease-free, no addictions, not planning to steal my wallet, just needs someone perceptive and kind to rescue her”). No, I don’t have any deep, insightful lessons to impart from it all. I just find it interesting that in looking slightly to the left or right of the real people standing right in front of us, we might be missing something.  — Joey

What makes him Charming, anyway?

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Rose that looks like it's sticking its tongue out. Message "Happy Valentine's Day from most of us." I once wished someone “Happy VD!” without realizing the double-entendre. Oops. He wasn’t amused. Valentine’s Day can be a field full of heart-shaped land mines.

In junior high and high school, the cheerleaders used to sell carnations for a dollar each. You could write a little card and around Valentine’s Day (or on it if it was a school day), they would interrupt classes to deliver the carnations. You’d sit in class, knowing Today Is The Day, feeling a bit sick. You never knew exactly when it would take place, but at some point, two cheerleaders would walk in with a tray. They’d announce names as if picking teams for dodge ball. “Lindsay Flag Twirler?” Then they’d present you with a carnation. If you got more than one, they wouldn’t just hand them all over. No, each was announced separately. It was torture. People who got bunches of them gloated, people who got none looked sick. It was school-sanctioned torment.

From my tone, you’d think I was one who didn’t get flowers, but I always got a few. Sometimes more. But my mom was worried I’d have to sit there, unflowered (insert “deflowered” joke here) in front of everyone. You wore them through the rest of the day. Popular kids looked like Rose Bowl Parade floats while most people looked… like they’d rather be anywhere else. Mom used to send me one (she’d give the money to a friend of mine and it was from an “anonymous” admirer, but I knew). That was sweet. She was trying to protect her kid from humiliation. My friends and I would send them to each other. I often had a boyfriend and we’d exchange them as well. I was middling-popular in school, neither the bottom nor the top of the pecking order.

And still, I hated it. I’d cringe for people who had to sit through all of that only to be embarrassed. Being human, everyone looked about to see who got what, and who didn’t. We might as well have pinned big letters to our clothes stating our status in the school popularity rankings. It’s been long enough that I can tell my secret — I used to pick people at random and send them an anonymous flower, probably because my mom used to send me one. I’d change my handwriting, just in case. I even sent one to myself one year, with extravagant praise I could read aloud to make people laugh.

In addition to the flowers, another team (JV cheer? Flag twirlers? I don’t remember) sold boxes of conversation hearts. So you got to go through it twice.

The pandemic has brought us few benefits indeed, but one is that not having school in person has meant that awful tradition became impossible. As we slowly, cautiously come out of our pandemic burrows (because, let’s face it, the pandemic isn’t over, and so long as some of us insist on behaving as if it never happened, who knows how long we’ll be dealing with it), let’s consciously ditch that which wasn’t working to begin with, like school-sanctioned popularity contests. Ugh. I want to reach the day when I tell a school-aged kid about it and they don’t believe it was ever a thing.

Just so you know, you have the capacity to be absolutely wonderful and you deserve flowers. Heaps of them. On Valentine’s Day and other days, too. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Please, 2020, No More Sequels

New Year’s Eve, 2021. Tomorrow, we start the third official year of the pandemic. Would whoever’s in charge of such things turn off 2020 before midnight tonight? Please?

2021 seemed like 2020, Pt. 2. The pandemic plodded on, largely thanks to its biggest fans, anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers, who thought the only thing wrong with the pandemic was that it might not last long enough. While shouting about how they wanted to be free of the pandemic and its restrictions, they did everything they could to assure us all that it wouldn’t end. Thanks!

Wildfire season, again, entered and was the Drama Queen that literally sucked up all the oxygen in the room for multiple states.

Between wildfires and Covid, there was a theme to 2020 and 2021: breathing. Call it the era of Waiting To Inhale.

We’re still dealing with Long Covid here, 20 months later. Definitely better than I was a year ago, but the big excitement for me was getting on the waiting list for my health care provider’s Long Covid program (which hasn’t started yet). Now it has a name: PASC. Here’s a hint for those with Long Covid looking for a doctor: ask what that doctor thinks about PASC. My old doctor didn’t “believe” in Long Covid, as though we were talking about the Tooth Fairy. My current doctor? Filled in the acronym and proceeded to discuss the latest research she’d read about. This was the year I learned to advocate for myself. A friend who works in healthcare said, “Always remember this is a service industry. You are a customer and if you don’t like how you’re treated, you might go somewhere else, and we’re unemployed. If you need something you aren’t getting, speak up!”

A doctor is a business partner. You have to work together to improve your health, and you have to be able to both understand and trust the advice you’re given. You have to be able to communicate. You have to know that you are heard and your concerns are considered. If all of that isn’t true, you might need a new doctor — and don’t be shy about finding a new one.

My own personal pandemic is entering its fourth year. I was just getting over a mysterious and scary illness (that turned out to be a reaction to a virus), when I caught Covid. Yet I still believe the pandemic will eventually end. Mom used to say that everything ends, and if the bad news about that is that good things end, the good news is that bad things end. She also said “Better is always coming. The trick is to hang on until it arrives.”

So hang on. Keep masking when you should, get vaccinated if you haven’t, and cut yourself a big slice of slack. This decade has a lot of room for improvement. When things get better, you want to be able to enjoy it. So rest. Meditate. Listen to music and dance around the house. Pet a dog. Laugh whenever you can. Forgive as much as you can. Be the light until the sun shines again. You are more remarkable than you suspect and more glorious than you know. Give yourself room to stretch out and shine or incubate and rest, whatever you need.

And if you’re the person who should have turned 2020 off, you’re forgiven, but please flip that switch now, please and thank you.

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PASC? What’s That Got To Do With Covid?

Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection? Covid Cooties?

It seems like forever since the start of the Covid pandemic, but actually, it’s been less than 2 years. Because this was a new virus, information about it is still being gathered and we’re still learning (especially as it keeps mutating), but there is one thing we know: somewhere between 5% and 10% of Covid patients will develop “Long Covid.” The official designation for Long Covid is PASC, Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection. This is not active Covid. It’s a collection of symptoms that persist after the active Covid phase that persists after the initial infection is over.

How long does it last? Nobody knows yet. As of today, over a year and a half since the pandemic started, there are still patients (like myself) who suffer with a variety of symptoms. Some people get over Covid and are fine. Some have symptoms that trouble them 4-6 months later. Some continue to deal with symptoms a year or more out.

What causes it? Research is underway to find out. Theories include inflammation of various sorts. internal damage caused by the virus during the active phase, or the body responding to viral fragments left in the system after the active infection is over (sort of like having a scary cardboard cutout in your Halloween decorations that you later throw away, but for some reason the trash collector doesn’t pick it up, so every time you go outside and see it you jump, because for just a moment it looks like there’s a scary clown threatening you. Maybe your immune system is running across leftovers that make it jumpy). Really, nobody knows yet why it happens, why some people have it and some don’t, or why it lasts different periods for those who do.

What symptoms are included in PASC? A bunch and you might have one or more. These can include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Racing or pounding heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Chest pain/discomfort
  • Loss of sense of smell/taste or altered sense of smell/taste
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • Brain fog/memory loss
  • Dizziness
  • Low-grade fever
  • Hair loss
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Insomnia
  • Hearing loss/tinnitus (ringing in the ears)/earache
  • Nausea/diarrhea/diminished appetite
  • Rashes

You might experience one, or more, or symptoms changing over time. And much like Covid19 itself, other symptoms may yet be added to this list. When I had Covid, they asked you about a dry cough or fever and that was it. I reported a bunch of other symptoms that are now on the screening list, but weren’t at the time, so they didn’t pay as much attention to my altered sense of smell, joint pain, chest pain, racing or pounding heartbeat, diarrhea, nausea, brain fog or insomnia. Those were added to the list over time as more cases provided more information. It will probably be like that for PASC.

Severity of PASC symptoms can vary. Some people have fairly serious levels of symptoms daily, and others, like myself, experience cycles that get better, then get worse (and every time they get worse again, it breaks your heart). Symptoms can be reactive to the environment. The recent wildfire smoke has done a real number on me — when the AQI (Air Quality Index) is high, my symptoms are much worse. They can also be unpredictable, really bad one day, not so bad the next, or bad for a week then not as bad for a couple of days. No way to predict.

Who gets PASC? No way to know so far. Previously healthy kids and adults are turning up with it. People who had moderate cases (as I did) or mild cases get it. No real pattern has emerged yet, but if you get Covid, you certainly could.

“Only” 5-10% of people who are tested positive for Covid get PASC, and for some it “only” lasts 4-6 months, so why worry about it? Well first off, those figures are mostly based on earlier versions of Covid, like “Alpha,” the original “wild virus” that I had. Variants are here (like Delta) that are much more contagious, so even if it stays at 5-10%, that’s 5-10% of a much higher number of people. 5% of 100,000 is “only” 5,000, but 5% of 40,000,000, the current number of people who have tested positive for Covid just in the U.S., is a lot more.

Also, variants, well, vary. Delta is far more contagious than Alpha. Does it make people sicker, too? Data’s mixed, but it may. Will it leave more people with PASC? It might. And we’re already up to the Mu variant (so the alphabet from A-M). Will one come along that leaves 25% with PASC? It’s certainly possible.

There’s no guarantee, or way to tell, if your PASC will last 6 months or 3 years. For some people, damage may be permanent. We just don’t know.

What do you do if you get COVID and have lasting symptoms? Talk to your doctor immediately! If your doctor won’t listen (and I’ve had some that wouldn’t), get a new doctor. This is a new disease and research is ongoing. You need an ally who, to begin with, understands that this is a real thing. Understand that some of the tests you have are to rule out other possible causes. Some tests are to show if you have sustained damage. There are no tests for PASC itself yet. They have to test for symptoms and treat symptoms. There’s no treatment for PASC itself.

Take care of yourself. Now, whether you have Covid or not, or have PASC or not, is the time to prioritize your basic healthcare and make it routine. Go to bed on time. Reduce those caffeinated fluids in favor of water. Mind your diet. Meditate, enjoy a hobby, get some exercise, support your mental health. See if your Vitamin D levels are where they should be. All of that supports the systems in your body that you need to encourage in order to heal. Diabetic? Watch your blood sugar.

If you do have PASC, consider joining a support group. There’s a few to choose from, including Survivor Corps on Facebook. Not only do they help spread the word so people understand what this is, it’s a place where you can talk about it and people understand what you’re talking about.

Don’t have it but know someone who does? Consider checking out the support groups to hear what other people are going through, to help you understand what your friend or family member is dealing with. Ask questions, NON-judgemental questions, of your friend/family member and listen to the answers. All of this can be scary, but pretending it’s not real doesn’t make it go away. Consider that this person’s energy levels/attention span/etc. are variable, so maybe he’s okay to go to the ball game one day but can’t have coffee the next and he probably can’t predict. Maybe she seems perky on Tuesday but on Thursday she can’t get out of bed. That can be part of this.

And protect yourself and those around you from Covid by getting vaccinated and masking. If we keep going the way we’re going, we’ll get to the Zed variant and somewhere along the line, we’ll create one that is more contagious, more severe and leaves more people with PASC, just through creating so many variants. Plus, if you know someone with PASC, you want to protect them from a “breakthrough” infection, so if you haven’t gotten vaccinated, make that appointment. Keep washin’ those hands, people! The basics (masking, hygiene) are still great protections against infection.

Sending out best, highest thoughts, wishes and prayers to my fellow PASC patients and their families and friends, and those vaccinated health professionals dealing with this Zombie Apocalypse (I know now who’s really on my Zombie Apocalypse team, and every one of them is vaccinated!). This is not easy to have, or deal with. Here are some sources of information:

Yale Medicine:

NIH (National Institutes of Health):

CDC (Centers for Disease Control)

Survivor Corps (Online Support Group):

Dr. James Campbell on Youtube:

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This Coloring Book Saves Lives!

Looking for a gift for an animal lover (maybe you)? This coloring book features artwork from over 100 artists (including us!) and raises funds to help pets in need. Pair this with a stuffed animal or other animal toy and some crayons, and you have the perfect present for that animal loving kiddo in your life:

This coloring book saves lives (and makes a great gift)!

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